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U. S. Navy Lieutenant Gregg Masterman (Robert Taylor), of THE Harvard and Boston Back Bay Mastermans, learned about the sea while winning silver cups sailing his yacht. He climbs swiftly in rank, and is now Junior Aide to Rear Admiral Stephen Thomas (Charles Laughton). In contrast,Lieutenant Commander Martin J. Roberts (Brian Donlevy), enlisted in World War I, and worked his way up gradually. He retired in 1935 but has been recalled as Executive Officer of the destroyer "Cranshaw." Impressed by Roberts' vigor, the rear admiral raises him to command of the destroyer "Warren,", an over-age World War I ship that has been recommissioned. Master laughs at Roberts' new command, only to have the Admiral assign him as the Executive Officer of the "Warren," under Roberts. The ship is to join a convoy which has already left Hawaii, bound for the United States. The Flagship of the convoy is the cruiser, "Chattanooga,' with Admiral Thomas in command. On the way, a lifeboat is sighted. From it are... Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Standby For Action finds the two co-stars of Billy the Kid, Robert Taylor and Brian Donlevy thrown together due to wartime circumstances as executive officer and captain of the recommissioned U.S.S. Warren. Apparently the Warren was one of the old vintage World War I destroyers that didn't get traded to the United Kingdom in the Destroyers for Naval Bases Deal that we did with them.
She's a worn out old tub as her caretaker, retired Chief Yeoman Walter Brennan will tell you, but she has plenty of heart and a lot of fight left in her. It's a lesson Taylor has to learn.
Had Standby For Action been filmed at 20th Century Fox, Tyrone Power would have had the role, in fact he did have a similar part in Crash Dive. Taylor's a rich kid whose family connections got him a commission and a job with Admiral Charles Laughton. Donlevy's a career Navy man who rose through the ranks to become a captain, also similar to the role Dana Andrews had in Crash Dive.
The crusty, but wise Admiral Laughton decides that his junior aide could use a bit of real sea duty and assigns him to the Warren to serve under Donlevy. It turns out to be a learning experience for both men.
Taylor and Donlevy give strong and capable performances. Taylor looks the part and in fact the following year he was wearing the uniform of Uncle Sam's Navy and seeing action in the real Pacific Theater. But both these guys had to fight against a pair of veteran scene stealers in Charles Laughton and Walter Brennan.
Laughton dominates every scene he's in and uses every trick in his considerable command to capture and hold the audience's attention. This is not Captain Bligh by any means, yet Bligh was as much a seaman as he was a sadist. This admiral is no such thing, but he knows and loves the Navy he serves with.
No more so than Walter Brennan and the high point of the film is Brennan telling Taylor and Donlevy how much the Navy means to him and how much he wants to serve his country in her hour of peril. At least it's my favorite scene.
The Warren runs into all kinds of problems from rescuing a lifeboat filled with infants to action against a Japanese battleship. Taylor and Donlevy and the crew meet all challenges.
Standby For Action is a good wartime action adventure. Robert Taylor would soon enough be dealing with the real thing.
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